The big debate is still happening about which format will win the format war: Blue-Ray, or HD-DVD. Of course, both formats are suffering, as many potential customers of either are sitting and watching from the side-lines waiting to see who will win before investing an obscen amount of money and risk being stranded with a dead format. (Laser disc anyone?)
And of course, in a semi-ironic sense, the format war will only be over when one gains a basic consumer base advantage over the other.
But I'll tell you what's really keeping the general public away from this technology (as from stupid DRM crap): An obvious flaw in design that has been there from the start:
WIDESCREEN MOVIES STILL DO NOT FIT WIDESCREEN TVS
There, I said it. It was the elephant in the room. The number one thing keeping people from moving to the new format, that is, high definition, is the fact that it's inherently widescreen.
DVD was a different animal. A clearly higher-quality alternative to VHS, without the wear factor. (My favorite cartoon VHS tape as a child is actually useless because I watched it so much). But with DVD, to encourage early adapters, it allowed backwards compatibility. That is to say, it had full screen formats for most of it's movies, as well as widescreen. And for a good reason, too! Most of the consumer base have regular 4: 3 TVs, and the widescreen format with the letterbox viewing area made the picture incredibly small.
Now, eventually most people moved to DVD instead of VHS, and a few early adapters grabbed some widescreen DVDs, but it was mostly a pressure-free format revolution (until blockbuster did away with VHS altogether).
What's keeping people from moving to High-Definition? The requirements are much higher.
Without a high-definition TV, there is no reason for high-definition players and discs, therefore in order to make the switch, a brand new wide-screen high-definition widescreen TV is required. (Did we mention wide-screen?)
And what's so bad about widescreen TVs? They're too confusing, and their aspect ratio continues to be inconsistent with ANY FORMAT AVAILABLE TODAY.
Not even best buy knows how to configure a damned widescreen tv. With two major formats of widescreen released by studios (both of which are wider than any widescreen tv available), and the standard 4: 3 ratio available for most tv and old dvd content, there are too many options to configure to actually get the actual aspect ratio on your TV set correct.
Have you ever seen a widescreen TV on display at an electronics store that actually has the correct aspect ratio? Some play movies that are stretched vertically. Some play tv shows that are stretched horizontally. NONE play content that fits the screen.
That's right. A widescreen TV happens to be at such a ratio that you will never experience un-distorted video that takes up your entire screen again. TV will be small (or stretched). Movies will have letterboxes (or be stretched), and overall, you'll wonder why you did not just get a big screen TV at 4: 3 that happens to be the same width as the widescreen and get the exact same sized picture for cheaper than you paid for your widescreen and still be able to watch fullscreen movies on occasion and enjoy television larger than any widescreen snob.
So why such an obvious contradiction? And why has not anyone complained, or heck, even noticed this?
I could not tell you why nobody notices such a stupid move on the entertainment industry's part. But I can tell you that it was not necessarily a mistake. That's right folks, I'm suggesting conspiracy.
Widescreen was simply invented to give worth to the other-wise useless dogs when TV was becoming increasingly popular. In order to make sure that the theaters would remain a proprietary (and then valued) medium for viewing movies, they created a ratio that would not look well on TV screens, and therefore would cause people to realize that they would have to actually go to the theater to get the full experience.
Now, more than ever, home theaters are becoming so high-quality that theaters are looking even worse than they ever have.
In a move consistent with previous planning, the industry continued to preserve the sanctity of the movie theater by still not allowing the perfect viewing circumstances at home.
Widescreen continues to be an artificial application to video, as the movie industry still uses the standard 35MM film stock with the aspect ratio of 4: 3, a standard defined by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Movie producers simply use a masking technique to remove the top and bottom of the image. That's it.
The entertainment industry's folly?
Attempting to artificially give value to movie theaters instead of finding true ways to give it worth (such as lowering the prices) will cause people to choose home theaters over real theaters. And until they embrace that this is the end of the theater days as we know them, they will continue to strangle new sales in the only part of the entertainment industry that's actually growing rapidly.
I consider myself to be on the edge of technology, always wanting the best. And I am perfectly happy bringing home a fullscreen rental DVD and watching it on my old 4: 3 TV that sometimes needs a good smack to the side before turning on.
The industry is having a hard time with change.